Renewing Africa’s Energy Future is the theme of an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) side-event scheduled to take place today at the Rio +20 conference underway in Brazil. Co-hosted by the government of Mozambique, this high-level meeting aims to spark a renewable energy revolution throughout the African continent, which supports 15% of the world’s population that in turn consumes a mere 5% of its generated energy.
As part of their negotiations with leaders throughout Africa, IRENA is pitching Morocco as the continent’s pilot country. Which makes sense given that MASEN is set to announce the winner of a tender to design, finance, construct, operate and maintain a 160 MW CSP plant near the southern city of Ouarzazate. Although the Solar Impulse journey has stalled, delaying the announcement, Saudi’s ACWA consortium seems set to win.
Lessons learned from Morocco
Building a Renewable Energy Database Framework, with Morocco as a pilot country, is just one of IRENA’s several renewable energy initiatives in Africa that is crafted to improve the accessibility and dissemination of qualitative and quantitative data to policymakers and stakeholders working to expand the continent’s clean energy infrastructure.
Morocco has keen ambitions to generate 2GW of solar energy by 2020, putting it far ahead of many other African nations that continue to stumble over coal and other fossil fuels while 590 million people continue to sit, literally, in the dark as a result of limited access to energy supplies.
“Blackouts, along with reliance on expensive fossil fuels for stop-gap electricity generation, are estimated to cost African economies between 1% and 5% of GDP each year,” according to a recent IRENA press release.
But bridging the gap will be no easy feat and requires a thorough review of both opportunities and restrains facing leaders. IRENA, with headquarters in Abu Dhabi, has introduced a Renewable Scenario for Africa, which reviews the impact of various policies that could promote the transition to a clean energy system within the next two decades.
Full energy access by 2030
“The scenario projects that the share of renewables in Africa could increase from 17% in 2009 to 50% in 2030, and nearly 75% by 2050. Total installed renewable capacity would grow from 28 GW in 2010 to around 800 GW by 2050, with solar photovoltaic accounting for 245 GW, wind 242 GW, hydropower 149 GW, concentrating solar power 94 GW, biomass 69 GW and geothermal 8 GW,” according to the agency.
“The Renewable Scenario factors in the goal of full energy access by 2030, while substantially reducing longer-term costs compared to the business- as-usual scenario in 2050. IRENA continues working with African partners to enhance the Renewable Scenario with more detailed data and tools.”
While many critics rightfully expect little in the way of meaningful action from the Rio+20 conference, these side events may prove infinitely more interesting and successful than the main circus. And North Africa, despite the Arab Spring uprisings, is leading the pack.
Image credit: man walking Moroccan desert, Shutterstock
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